Onokhov of the North: Coming of Age in Chukotka

Still from The Whaler Boy.

As a film historian/critic who specializes in chronicling, critiquing and deconstructing celluloid stereotypes of Indigenous peoples, Russian Philipp Yuryev’s The Whaler Boy made a big impression upon me. On the one hand, the Moscow-born writer/director’s debut full-length feature is a strikingly original movie set among the Native people in Siberia’s Great White North. On the other hand, the Russian auteur’s The Whaler Boy reminded me of several other films plus a classic book.

This 93-minute movie is largely shot on location in Chukotka, a village inhabited by Inuits in the Russian Far East, bordered by the East Siberian Sea, which is part of the Arctic Ocean. Vladimir Onokhov delivers a poignant performance as the title character in The Whaler Boy, who is named Leshka. The 15-year-old and his best friend, Kolyan (Vladimir Lyubimtsev), live a semi-traditional lifestyle in a Chukotka village near the Bering Strait, with ramshackle, grim-looking low-rise apartments and houses, where the power often fails (just as their motorbikes breakdown motorboats run out of gas, perhaps metaphors of “modernity” failing Indigenous people).

To read this article, log in here or subscribe here.
In order to read CP+ articles, your web browser must be set to accept cookies.

Ed Rampell is a contributor to the new book on America’s former Poet Laureate “Conversations With W.S. Merwin” and co-author of “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book“.

CounterPunch Magazine Archive

Read over 400 magazine and newsletter back issues here

Support CounterPunch

Make a tax-deductible monthly or one-time donation and enjoy access to CP+.  Donate Now

Support our evolving Subscribe Area and enjoy access to all Subscribers content.  Subscribe